Middletown to receive Working Cities Challenge grant

We are excited to announce Middletown has been selected as one of the ten winning cities in Connecticut for the Working Cities Challenge, an initiative of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which promotes economic growth throughout cities in Connecticut, as well as other parts of New England.

The purpose of this initiative is to award funding to help develop a plan to improve the lives of low-income Middletown residents by decreasing poverty rates among single heads of household with children under 18 from 41 percent to 25 percent over the next ten years. This would be achieved through increasing employment opportunities, strategic coalition-building, and targeted system changes.

The collaborative team, led by the Middlesex United Way, The Connection and the City of Middletown, began the application process for the design grant in November 2016. The Working Cities Challenge design grant of $15,000 will help provide resources to the core team to develop their plan further, and will hopefully allow eligibility for a much larger implementation grant of between $300,000 and $500,000 over three years.

Eligibility requirements for the design grant include cities with populations over 25,000 with median family incomes below the state’s median household income and poverty rates above the state’s.

There were a total of 16 eligible cities, and ten have been chosen to receive the grant. The ten winning design cities are Bridgeport, Danbury, East Hartford, Middletown, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven, Norwich, Torrington, and Waterbury.

During the application process, the team brought together individuals from many different backgrounds, including professionals in higher education, social services, government, and business, to help identify Middletown’s greatest needs and to determine ways to address economic challenges.

The next steps of the design process will include developing a plan that reflects what financial struggles the community faces. It is vital we have resident input, as this will assist in identifying specific barriers our community faces. The collaborative will seek participation from the community through one-on-one conversations, focus groups, surveys and community interviews. The goal will be to come up with a plan to help strengthen community support systems and expand on opportunities that will help foster economic success.

All of the winning teams will be celebrated on April 5 at Real Art Ways in Hartford from 10 a.m. to noon and will feature remarks from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President, Eric Rosengren. Please register by March 31 by contacting Ed Bonilla at 860-346-8695 or ed.bonilla@middlesexunitedway.org. He, or Beth Connor at The Connection, 860-343-5500; can provide information about the Working Cities Challenge Grant and how to get involved.

Kevin Wilhelm is executive director of the Middlesex County United Way, based in Middletown.